Pereskia aculeata Mill.
Barbados Gooseberry, Barbados Shrub, Leaf Cactus, Ora-Pro-Nobis
Cactus lucidus, Cactus pereskia, Peireskia aculeata, Pereskia acardia, Pereskia aculeata f. rubescens, Pereskia aculeata subsp. rubescens, Pereskia aculeata var. aculeata, Pereskia aculeata var. brasiliensis, Pereskia aculeata var. godseffiana, Pereskia aculeata var. lanceolata, Pereskia aculeata var. longispina, Pereskia aculeata var. rotundifolia, Pereskia aculeata var. rubescens, Pereskia brasiliensis, Pereskia foetens, Pereskia fragrans, Pereskia godseffiana, Pereskia lanceolata, Pereskia longispina, Pereskia peireskia, Pereskia pereskia, Pereskia plantaginea, Pereskia rubescens, Pereskia undulata
This species is native to Antilles, Panama, and Colombia. It is also reported from southern Florida in the United States and Mexico, perhaps as an escape.
Pereskia aculeata is an unusual shrubby cactus with long whip-like branches with cushionlike areoles that bear 1 to 3 straight spines near the woody base of the plant but towards the top with pairs of short hooked spines in the leaf axils. Branches are at first erect, later clambering, up to 33 feet (10 m) long, up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter, and grow on trees in their native habitat. Leaves are dark glossy green, oblong to ovate with a short petiole, up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) wide. In habitat, they are deciduous in the dry season. Spines are 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) long, brown to nearly black, with variously colored bases in new growth, becoming gray with age. Flowers appear arranged in terminal or axillary panicles aggregated towards the top of the branches in summer. They are strongly scented, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, and vary in color from white, cream, and yellow to pinkish. The edible fruits are globose berries with inconspicuous thornless areoles, yellow or orange when ripe, up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) in diameter, and contain smooth dark brown seeds.
USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
As with many cacti, Pereskias can be almost ignored and still flourish. One of the major advantages these plants pose as houseplants are their ease. Overwatering or overfeeding them is a bigger danger than neglecting them because it can damage their roots. If you repot them, remember to leave them alone for a brief period to avoid overstressing them, and keep an eye out for common houseplant pests. Many of these cacti can't be grown as houseplants anyway due to their shrubby growth habit, and others are very rare, but when you do find out, Pereskias can be good in cultivation.
They like dry conditions and don't need to be repotted often, but it is still a good idea to refresh their soil by occasionally repotting. Be careful when repotting any cactus not to get hurt by its sharp spines and lift the plant from its mix and replace it in a new container before backfilling it with soil. Do not water for a few weeks after repotting.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Pereskia.
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